First Fight #4
I don’t look at things like the Diamond pre-order catalog (assuming that’s even still a thing), and I don’t know if Bryan’s comics would even be listed in such a thing. But for whatever reason I couldn’t help but think of this being described as “a grown man trains for an MMA fight while losing to everybody but a 15 year old kid.” Accurate, but not at all the whole story. For those of you who haven’t been following this series, Bryan lost his first match, was out of it for three years and decided to get back into fighting. This issue deals with Bryan taking some family members to an MMA event to show them what he was getting into and training with both adults and kids to get himself into fighting shape. I have to say that it’s becoming increasingly difficult for me not to check around online to see how this story ends (or at least how it’s progressed if he’s still fighting), mostly because we live in a culture of instant gratification and the production time involved in making and distributing comics is bound to keep him behind real life. With that in mind, it would be helpful if he maybe included a timeline somewhere along the line, although with the events he hasn’t covered yet left out so we can avoid “spoilers.” Of his real life. Maybe “spoilers” is not the right word in this case. Anyway, Bryan is doing the right thing here and taking his time, showing his training and what he’s going through every step of the way. It would be easy for him to put the equivalent of a training montage in here and then just showing his fights, but it’s important to see exactly what goes into an undertaking like this. As a man who’s perpetually not in great shape with periodic bursts of trying to get INTO better shape, I really appreciated his panel when he realized that he couldn’t move the next morning after a particularly tough day of training. I do have one minor quibble: in a story showing how easy it is to do damage to your hand if you hit somebody with your fist, he used the example of Homer Simpson hitting Barney in a bar while Moe stands by. As somebody who’s been watching The Simpsons for the better part of 23 years, I can’t remember such a thing happening. Unless it did, in which case I hope somebody is good enough to remind me of the episode. OK, fine, that isn’t an actual complaint at all, and Bryan probably just wanted to draw some Simpsons characters, which isn’t a crime. This series is still well worth checking out, even if you’re not a fan of fighting and feel squeamish about the whole concept. Believe it or not, the things you’re most squeamish about are also the things that the professional fighters try not to do. Read and be amazed!
First Fight #3
I have one suggestion to make to Bryan before I get down to the reviewin’: please consider putting some sort of timeline in your books. Granted, that may eventually make the comics look dated if you can’t keep up a consistent publishing schedule, but I’m genuinely curious to see how long he wasn’t fighting, how long it took him to get back into shape, etc. Just a thought. So! This issue starts off with Bryan and his wife moving into their new home. He has some friends over, so he mentions to them that he’s looking to get back into the MMA fighting, which comes as a shock to them, because Bryan has put on a big chunk of weight over recent months and they wonder if he’s really ready for the training that would have to happen. Bryan chuckles, says he will be ready, and later that night he steps on the scale (which is something he had been avoiding for months). Well, it turns out that he was about 30 pounds off in his estimate of his own weight, and it was in the wrong direction. Hey, who hasn’t been there? Bryan makes a vow then and there to finish 30 push ups, which he does (eventually), and from there he fully gets back into training. I think, anyway, which is where my request for a timeline comes in. I guess it would be boring to see Bryan riding a stationary bike for an hour or so a day to lose weight, but if that’s part of his training it should be in here somewhere. The rest of the comic shows Bryan’s experiences with a jui jitsu class, the humiliations involved in repeatedly getting beat by teenagers, and using those skills to show up an uncle who was making fun of him. But in a harmless, all-in-good-fun kind of way (he didn’t choke the guy out is what I’m saying). It’s another thoroughly engaging comic and it looks like Bryan is going to pick up his publishing schedule in the coming months. I for one can’t wait to see how it all turns out. $4
First Fight #2
Technical difficulties forced me to use images of this comic from a couple of different places online, so my apologies if the quality seems a little off. In this issue I get an answer to my question about why Bryan doesn’t just change the name for each issue (First Fight, Second Fight, etc.): because these comics aren’t about one fight each. In this issue Bryan has his first fight in a tournament and loses on points. That seemed impressive enough to me, because at least he managed to stay “alive” for the whole fight. He watched the rest of the tournament with the rest of the crowd, and grew increasingly thankful that he didn’t make it through to some of the beasts that made it to the end. From there he made his first comic, talked to some folks at a convention about it, then got his own table for a later convention. As most of the questions seemed to focus on when he’d participate in his next tournament, he eventually decided that he was going to go ahead and try it. With training, of course, which is what the rest of the issue shows. One trivial thing bugged me, though: why put in a very obviously fake name for Robert Kirkman (Bobert Birkman and his comic “The Walking Dread”)? He used real names for everybody else, and I think “Birkman” has better things to do than sue small press comics artists who use his name. Baffling, but little things like that stick out to me for whatever reason. Still, no sense getting bogged down by the small stuff, as the bulk of this comic was a lot of fun. If he keeps this up this could be one of those rare crossover hits, as I’m sure a good chunk of MMA fans wouldn’t mind reading comics about the sport. And if it gets too rough on Bryan to continue producing material for his comics (i.e. taking a beating), then he could always follow another MMA fighter and do a comic about him. Just trying to save the man a few brain cells… $6
Now here’s something you don’t see every day in the world of small press comics: the story of the author’s first mixed martial arts fight.Â Take that, everybody who holds the stereotype of artists as awkward nerds! Bryan had always been a fan of fighting, due to the influence of some early fighting movies and the fact that boxing was the only sport he would watch with his father as a child.Â He had a stable life as an artist with a family, but decided that he wanted to go and do things that he had always wanted to do, so he decided to train for a MMA fight.Â After training for a few weeks (and appearing to be only so-so at it), his coach told him about a tournament that had a Novices division (people with less than 9 months of training).Â Bryan had three months to train so he really pushed himself, lost 30 pounds to qualify for a weight division and seemed to improve his skills greatly.Â So the day of the tournament finally rolls around, and Bryan gets there only to discover that his coach has dropped out unexpectedly at the last minute.Â He wavers, but decides to stick with it, going out for his fight alone, and if I mention any more I’m going to spoil the ending.Â I for one didn’t know that there was a class of MMA where striking wasn’t permitted, where the only way to win a fight was through submission holds.Â That can still be dangerous, obviously, but it sounds a whole lot less brutal than pummeling a novice repeatedly.Â The man seems to be a professional artist, so it’s no surprise that this book looks as nice as it does, but he really does a tremendous job of illustrating the fight.Â Every hold and counter looked like actual holds and counters, something that is crucial in a book like this but would have been easy to get wrong.Â Bryan hopes to go on to more fights, and here’s hoping if he does that he keeps making comics about it, because reading about the whole process here (all the training, advice, how he heard the other coach give his guy advice during the fight) all really flesh out the MMA world and make it clear that it’s not a simple, brainless thing, an impression people could easily get if they’ve just seen a match or two on Spike TV.Â As for you, gentle reader, if you hate violence there is no blood in this book, so at least there’s that.Â For anybody who is curious about this world and wants to see what it’s like, this is a great introduction.Â I’m not seeing a price, but $5 makes sense to me…